I'm not totally clear on why we need two film festivals at the same time—I barely have the waking hours for one, and it's my job to give a care. But Seattle's True Independent Film Festival is an admirably scrappy adversary (or companion) for SIFF: It's monumentally more affordable, less self-important, and—though the stinkers might be stinkier—its successes are exciting in their honesty and creative oomph.
Frank & Cindy (Sat June 7, Rendezvous, 4 pm; Wed June 11, CHAC, 7 pm)
G. J. Echternkamp documents the day-to-day life of his mom (the batshit insane but fanatically loving Cindy) and stepdad (Frank, an '80s one-hit wonder who's been drinking wine on Cindy's couch since 1983). The film is hysterical and devastating and completely mesmerizing—but it'd be worth watching for Frank's eyeballs alone.
GodAwesome (Sat June 14, CHAC, 4:30 pm)
A fascinating documentary peek into the inner workings of Tacoma megachurch Champions Centre, GodAwesome stays meticulously, conspicuously objective. But commentary would be redundant—Champions Centre's spangled and frosted elite cheerily damn themselves by announcing things like, "Kids are like a blank slate, and we have the opportunity from God to just paint a canvas!"
Gustav Braustache and the Auto-Debilitator (Sat June 14, Rendezvous, 6:15 pm)
This is, without a doubt, my favorite 18 minutes of STIFF this year—or SIFF, for that matter. I had low hopes. It sounded vaguely German, which made me think it probably involved philosophy. I almost didn't watch it. I almost fucked up big-time. It's the story of an inventor, a landlord, and the world's most charming machines.
Strange Girls (Sat June 7, Rendezvous, 8 pm)
When I was in college in Los Angeles, this theater major named Angela Berliner wrote a creepy play about twins, starring herself and her twin. Now she and her twin are starring in this creepy movie about twins, which was delivered to me among the STIFF screeners. I just thought that was weird.
Chasing the Devil (Sat June 7 CHAC, 7 pm; Thurs June 12, R Place, 8 pm)
It's not nice to laugh at the mentally ill. And luckily, there's nothing funny about these desperate, lost, broken, raging souls paddling slowly, hopelessly, up ex-gay creek. Rough production values can't sink this maddening and heartbreaking documentary, thanks to the rich horror of the subject matter. "In my case, my religious identity trumped my sexual orientation. And for me, there was no way I was going to accept gay. It just wasn't going to happen," says one ex-gay. "There has been a lot of pain," says his wife.